Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle belong to all sorts of people, none of them me, and have been used without permission.

I started this just after Gab's haircut as sort of a farewell to her lovely long hair and braids. I've always enjoyed seeing the different ways XnG braided their hair, wondering if they do their own or each others. I kind of have a hard time seeing Xena braiding Gab's hair, but I could see Gab braiding her own and making Xena let her braid hers. I kept hoping that Melissa Good would do a braiding scene as a flashback or something while I was reading her stories or that I would run across one in another fanfic. But I haven't yet, so I decided to write one of my own. (I've always figured that Xena's bad hair days mean Gab is mad and lately on the show the way Xena's hair has been looking, I think Gab must be jealous because she no longer has hair to braid and that's why she's messing Xena's up so bad. (g)

While this story starts shortly after Gabrielle's haircut in the fourth season, most of it takes place in the past, right after Xena and Gabrielle start traveling together.


Strands of Friendship


Gabrielle twisted the last bit of dark hair into a braid and tied it off. "There you go," she said,

patting Xena on the back, "all done now."

The warrior turned and grinned at her, running her fingers over the braids. "Thanks." Then she

reached out and ruffled the bard's short hair, her grin growing larger as Gabrielle ducked her head

and scowled at her.

"Xena, stop that," Gabrielle muttered, struggling to keep a frown on her face as Xena's bright

blue eyes sparkled and the warrior began laughing.

"Fair's fair, my bard. You got to play with my hair," she said, reaching out and running her

fingers down the other side of Gabrielle's head. "I'm just returning the favor."

Gabrielle ducked again and moved away from Xena, her hands held out in front of her to fend off

the still grinning warrior. "I've got some extra ties, you could do Argo," she smirked and moved

so the firepit was between them. "She's got lovely golden hair..."


"Argo?" Xena raised an eyebrow. "But you're so much more fun." With those words, the warrior

let out a loud yell and launched herself over the fire, latching onto the bard even as she turned to


"No fair, cheat, cheat," Gabrielle laughed as they tumbled to the ground and Xena began tickling

her. They tussled for a few minutes and then just lay still, catching their breath and enjoying the


Gabrielle propped her chin up on the warrior's chest and looked down into her eyes, grinning.

"You know, Xena, when we first met, I used to wonder if you ever brushed your hair..." she

stopped for a moment as the warrior gave her a funny look, then continued with a sly grin. " I

thought that maybe you shared Argo's brush," she snickered.

"What?" Xena asked, raising an eyebrow as she rolled the bard off her and sat up.

"Really, I did," Gabrielle smirked and latched onto one of Xena's braids, using it to pull the

warrior closer. "Let me tell you about it..." she whispered in her ear.


Gabrielle scrubbed at her eyes and rolled wearily into an upright position at the sound of the

warrior's voice. Morning... already, she groaned, but then her face lit up at the sight of a woven

basket full of berries sitting next to her bedroll.

Xena was so... different from anyone she'd ever known. Sometimes she almost scared the village

girl from Potideia with her taciturn and almost rude behavior. Then the warrior would go and do

something like picking her berries for breakfast or catching fish for supper like she had last night.

Gabrielle smiled at the memory.


Xena had just waded out into a stream to fill their water bags when Gabrielle had made a rather

negative comment about the dried meat they'd been living on for the past week. Typically, the

warrior didn't answer her or even acknowledge her words. Instead, she just waded out a little

deeper into the water as if to escape the conversation. Then, before Gabrielle even realized what

she was doing, three fat fish flipped through the air right in front of her face and landed on the

beach. Supper that night had been much better.


Yawning, she pulled her boots on and climbed to her feet, straightening her clothes and digging

in her bag for her hairbrush. A quick glance at Xena showed her that the warrior was still

saddling Argo so she had a few minutes before they hit the road. She folded her blanket and

added it to the pile of gear Xena was placing on Argo. Then she quickly brushed her hair out and

pulled it back into a neat braid, finishing just as Xena tied the last bag on Argo. The warrior had

apparently, as usual, simply run her fingers through her hair to straighten it somewhat and then

went on from there.

Gabrielle shook her head. She wasn't sure that Xena even owned a brush. She'd certainly never

seen her brushing her hair. Maybe she just uses Argo's brush once a week, she grinned, and then

sternly told herself to be nice. After all, she does take care of herself. And she's far more likely

and much quicker than you to dunk herself in icy stream water for a bath. She just doesn't seem

to care about her appearance the same way you do.

I wonder, Gabrielle thought, studying Xena's tangled locks as the warrior turned to put out their

campfire. Lila and I used to braid each other's hair all the time...

Xena's rough voice drawling a single word interrupted her musings and she jumped, startled.


"Ready?" Xena repeated, raising an eyebrow at her.

The first time she's spoken to me this morning, and she has to catch me goofing off, Gabrielle

blushed. No, I don't think I'm brave enough to ask her that. Besides, she probably couldn't sit still

long enough for me to comb her hair out, much less braid it. She sighed and shoved her brush

into her bag, running to catch up with the warrior who was already moving down the road.


Gods, what an awful day, Gabrielle groaned to herself as she tried to make her numb fingers

hang onto her end of the branches Xena was trying to weave into a shelter for them. But I'm not

gonna tell her that, she thought as she glanced at her snarling companion. Any way, it still beats

Potideia, even if everything we own is soaking wet and we'll probably be frozen solid by


She jumped, startled, as the warrior let loose with a string of swear words as several of the

branches snapped in half and the shelter crumbled at their feet despite her best efforts to hang

onto her end. She stepped back from the mess, tucking her numb fingers into her armpits and

tried to keep her teeth from chattering as she waited for further directions from the warrior.

Xena snarled silently, shoved her dripping hair out of her face and then aimed a savage kick at

the broken branches. At the last second, she pulled the kick, biting her lip hard and clenching her

hands, digging her nails into her palms in an effort to control her temper.

Gods, why can't anything go right today, Xena thought? Two fights with a bunch of scum

looking for easy handouts and then I take the wrong turn at the crossroads because I'm too busy

listening to her talk. I've gotta be losing it. She sighed and wiped a wet, dirty forearm across her

equally wet and dirty forehead in an effort to get the water out of her eyes. Then she slid her eyes

sideways, glancing at the wet, shivering girl standing silently across from her, wondering for the

umpteenth time why the kid wanted to travel with a half-crazy ex-warlord in weather like this

when she could be warm and dry in her nice, safe village.


Poor kid, she thought, seeing the shivers that Gabrielle was trying so hard to hide. She must not

be doing too good, she's actually not talking for once. The warrior sighed again. If it was just me,

I'd curl up under a bush with my furs until the rain stopped, but she needs more shelter than that.

She bit her lip again, searching her memories from the last time she'd been in the area, trying

desperately to remember somewhere, anywhere they might be able to find some shelter from the

storm. But she couldn't come up with anything.

She tucked her hair behind her ears again and turned to survey the nearby trees and bushes. We

could double up the sleeping rolls, she thought, wondering if she could stand to be that close to

someone for the entire night. Especially if the girl started talking again once she warmed up. She

glanced back at Gabrielle to suggest that and hid a grin when she saw that the girl had actually

overcome her dislike of Argo enough to huddle up next to the horse for warmth.


Warmth, blessed warmth, Gabrielle thought drowsily. She could feel the heat radiating off the

figure wrapped around her and even the damp furs were warm. Once again, Xena was right, she

reflected wryly as she reluctantly opened one eye to survey the sunlit forest. When Xena had

voiced her suggestion the night before, Gabrielle thought the warrior had finally lost it. But in the

end, given the choice of curling up all alone under a bush with her blanket or doubling their

bedrolls, she'd chosen to share. She didn't buy any of Xena's explanations about wet blankets,

body heat and small places; she just didn't want to be all by herself in the middle of the storm.

A nearly overwhelming prompt from her bladder forced her to reluctantly leave the warm nest

and seek the bushes. When she returned, she was met by bright blue eyes and a raised eyebrow.

"Warm enough now?" the warrior drawled, a half-grin on her lips.

Gabrielle blushed, but forced herself to meet Xena's eyes. She's grinning, she thought in

confusion. Everything we own is soaked. All of our supplies are probably ruined. And she's

grinning? "Um, still wet, but yeah, I'm nice and warm," she answered and then, much to her

surprise, she found herself smiling hesitantly back at the warrior. Then her stomach growled,

loudly, and she blushed again.

Xena laughed. "Well, we've solved one of your problems, I suppose we should address the other.

I believe there's a stream just over that hill."

In short order the warrior produced a string of fish which Gabrielle set about cooking. Then they

both started emptying saddlebags and sorting supplies. Soon the bushes were festooned with

drying garments and blankets and Gabrielle sat staring in dismay at the remains of their food

supplies. Even the heavily waxed paper and rawhide hadn't protected their food from the


"Don't worry about the food, Gabrielle," Xena said, wincing as she looked at the sticky, slimy

and half disintegrated pile of what had once been their dried meat, fruit and journey bread.


"We're only two days out from the next village, I can feed us by hunting," Xena said.

Gabrielle's eyes widened as the warrior turned her attention back to her sword. Fish and rabbit

and berries over dried meat and journey bread? No way was she going to complain.


Gabrielle had just placed the stewpot containing the no-longer-dried jerky and fruits she'd

salvaged over the fire to cook for their supper when Xena approached from the river, her arms

full of cloth.

"Here, these are dry now," the warrior said, tossing Gabrielle a shift. "The water's cold, but I

thought you might like to get cleaned up and out of those clothes." She reached out and brushed

at the dried mud caking Gabrielle's skirt.

Xena shook her head and grinned as the girl's whole face lit up at the thought of clean, dry

clothes and she snatched the shift out of the warrior's hand and took off for the river. I don't

know why she wants to be with me, she reflected, reaching out to stir the stew, but I'm awfully

glad she's here. Then she froze.

Xena, she told herself sternly, you've lost it completely. Xena, the do-gooder mushball. The kid

is a nuisance. She can't keep up. She's scared of Argo. She never shuts up. All the trouble in a 50

mile radius zeroes in on her... and you're glad she's here?

Then, somewhere inside of her, a tiny little voice she'd never heard before spoke up. But you are

glad she's here, it whispered. She actually cares about you, not your looks, not the amount of loot

you're going to help her win, not how many men you can kill for her, she cares about you. She's a

good cook. Face it, you would have starved by now, or at least poisoned yourself. And she tells a

great story...

Xena groaned and forced herself to pick up her armor and start polishing it as the little voice

relentlessly continued, ...and how would you feel if she left you? She will, you know. One day

she's going to stay behind with one of those pretty little boys...


Gabrielle sat by the fire, combing her wet hair and watching the warrior mending her leathers.

After every couple stitches, Xena reached up and brushed her hair back from her face again.

Gabrielle frowned when she realized that, while Xena had bathed, she hadn't done anything with

her hair other than rinsing it clean and wringing it out. She bit her lip and stared at her hands for

a moment. Then, emboldened by the warrior's friendly behavior that day, she stood up and

approached her.

"Xena," she said hesitantly, "why don't you let me brush your hair out and braid it. Then it won't

keep getting in your way." And it'll look much better, she thought.


The warrior stared up at her, clearly startled but after a moment she answered. "Um... okay, " she

said, not knowing what else to say. Was this how other women entertained themselves, fixing

each other's hair? She sighed. I supposed I can play along and make her happy, she thought,

laying her leathers on the end of the log and standing awkwardly in front of Gabrielle.

Gabrielle sat down on the log and patted the ground in front of her. "Why don't you sit right


The warrior lowered herself gracefully to the ground and crossed her legs. Then Gabrielle

reached out and began to gently run the brush through her hair.

At first Xena's hair was coarse and tangled, but when Gabrielle had finally worked all the snarls

out it hung half way down the warrior's back in a shimmering curtain of midnight black. And it

felt like silk as she ran her fingers through it behind the brush.

Not, Gabrielle reflected, that she'd ever owned anything silk. But she and Lila had often visited

the market, stroking the strange and exotic fabrics and furs and dreaming of a different life.

Almost regretfully, she laid her brush aside and gathered up several strands of Xena's hair,

twisting them together into a braid.

Xena held her breath as the girl began to run the brush through her hair, gently working at the

snarls. After several minutes the gentle strokes and touches relaxed her as vague memories of her

mother doing the same when she was a little girl filled her mind with warm thoughts and the

simple comfort of someone touching her in a loving, gentle manner relaxed her tense muscles. A

few ugly thoughts reared their heads, asking her just what she thought she was doing, letting the

girl brush her hair, but she pushed them firmly aside and forced herself to relax.

"All done," Gabrielle said, interrupting her revery. Xena blinked and looked up at her, slightly

dazed for a moment. Then she reached up and ran her hands over the braids, shaking her head to

see if her hair still fell in her face. When it actually stayed back she grinned.

Fair's fair," she said, reaching out to tug playfully at Gabrielle's still damp hair, "will you let me

braid yours?"

Gabrielle stared at her, aghast for a moment. Let Xena braid her hair? Xena, who didn't even own

a brush, fix her hair? Then, when Xena dropped her eyes and her expression became remote and

unreadable, she realized she was hurting the warrior's feelings. Funny-looking hair is a small

price to pay for a closer friendship with Xena, she told herself firmly.

"Sure," she grinned, "you can braid my hair if you like." And she held out the brush, gazing

straight into the warrior's blue eyes.

Hesitantly, Xena took it and then grinned shyly at her. "Really, Gabrielle, I can braid," she

assured the girl. " I have many skills."

After all, Xena reasoned, looking down at her whip, I can braid leather, hair can't be too different.

The End

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